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Boy oh boy, 2015 was a big year for advertising debate.

To try and bring some closure to a year of fervid discussion on the Econsultancy blog, we asked two experts on performance marketing to give us their view on programmatic in 2015.

And if you want to learn more on this topic, book yourself a place at our Programmatic Training Course.

Is there a creativity vacuum?

David Carr, Strategy Director at DigitasLBi 

As we all raced to keep up with the exponential increases in options and terminology, maybe new realism began to creep in. 

Had media left creative behind? Was programmatic only about cheaper buys and cheaper dynamic creative optimization with production efficiencies, real-time price updates and maybe a “personalized” colour-way and call to action based on someone’s browsing history?

When you asked around the industry for great creative examples the same ones would come back: Axe Brasil’s Romeo Reboot with its 100,000 dynamic videos, Diesel Decoded’s 400 bespoke copylines and the Amanda Foundation’s digital “Pawprint” work. 

Yet programmatic is not just about direct response and CPAs. Programmatic is people. Programmatic allows creative to build a tailored story arch for the individual.

This makes brand ideas and human truths more important than ever to stimulate and organize the work making it consistent, relevant and distinct.

It means rethinking storytelling through a lens of data and technology to give personalization at scale and enable a brand relationship that learns – not just buying on a DSP.

Axe Brasil’s Romeo Reboot was an example of dynamic video.

romeo reboot

Brands seek transparency and control

David Carr, Strategy Director at DigitasLBi 

It is this technology lens that means new ways of organizing an agency are needed along with new client-agency relationships.

Creative, media and technology need to be re-integrating or at least work far more closely together. This way savings from spend can be used to create more effective work and technology can give greater transparency.

When at most 45 cents in the dollar reaches publishers and even an in-house or managed service on a shared platform leads to unknown ad-tech, DSP sell-side, reseller SSP and primary SSP fees plus data leakage to competitor algorithms, transparency is vital.

Taking a brand-first approach where clients control the bidding strategy AND the tech roadmap while not being lumbered with platform development and management might be a solution here?

Chris O'Hara, VP Strategic Accounts at Krux Digital (author of Econsultancy's Programmatic Branding report)

More and more, we are seeing big marketers decide to “take programmatic in house.”

That means hiring former agency and vendor traders, licensing their own technologies, and (most importantly) owning their own data.

This trend isn’t as explosive as one might think, based on the industry trades - but it is real and happening steadily.

What brought along this shift in sentiment? Certainly concerns about transparency; there is still a great deal of inventory arbitrage going on with popular trading desks.

Also, the notion of control. Marketers want and deserve more of a direct connection to one of their biggest marketing costs, and now the technology is readily available.

Even old school marketers can license their way into a technology stack any agency would be proud of.

The only thing really holding back this trend is the difficulty in staffing such an effort. Programmatic experts are expensive, and that’s just the traders!

When the inevitable call for data-science driven analytics comes in, things can really start to get pricey! But, this trend continues for the next several years nonetheless.

Only app development is outsourced more than display advertising (source: Organisational Structures and Resourcing Best Practice Guide)

outsourced disciplines

Users suffer (especially on mobile) without union of creative, data and tech

David Carr, Strategy Director at DigitasLBi 

As all media continued to go mobile in 2015 the underbelly of programmatic was exposed. Hundreds of competing cookies on a page with javascript that bloated page weights above 1mb – if they even allowed the page to render at all – became a too common occurrence.

In this context programmatic became not just the future of ad buying but perhaps the best advert for Adblockers you could have. 

Creative, data and technology consolidation for a mobile world is one potential solution but ultimately the only way that programmatic can live up to its promise is for all three to work together.

That way we can get back to people. Where do they go, what are they interested in, how do they respond to content and messages and how do we offer them something useful, usable and delightful? 

Targeting with purchase data improves segmentation

Chris O'Hara, VP Strategic Accounts at Krux Digital

Remember when finding the “household CEO” was as easy as picking a demographic target?

Marketers are still using demographic targeting (Woman, aged 25-44) to some extent, but we have seen them shift rapidly to behavioral and contextually based segments (“Active Moms”), and now to Purchase-Based Targeting (PBT).

This trend has existed in categories like automotive and travel, but is now being seen in consumer packaged goods.

Today, marketers are using small segments of people who have actually purchased the product they are marketing (“Special K Moms”) and using lookalike modeling to drive scale and find more of them.

These purchase-defined segments are a more precise starting point in digital segmentation - and can be augmented by behavioral and contextual data attributes to achieve scale.

The big winners here are the folks who actually have the in-store purchase information (such as Oracle’s Datalogix, 84.51, Nielsen’s Catalina Solutions, INMAR, and News Corp’s News America Marketing).

archery targets

Programmatic direct as a route through complexity

Chris O'Hara, VP Strategic Accounts at Krux Digital

For years we have been talking about the disintermediation in the space between advertisers and publishers (essentially, the entire Lumascape map of technology vendors), and how we can find scalable, direct, connections between them.

It doesn’t make sense that a marketer has to go through an agency, a trading desk, DSP, an exchange, SSP, and other assorted technologies to get to space on a publisher website.

Marketers have seen $10 CPMs turn into just $2 of working media.

Early efforts with “private marketplaces” inside of exchanges created more automation, but ultimately kept much of the cost structure.

A nascent, but quickly emerging, movement of “automated guaranteed” procurement is finally starting to take hold. Advertisers can create audiences inside their DMP and push them directly to a publisher’s ad server where they have user-matching.

This is especially effective where marketers seek an “always on” insertion order with a favored, premium publisher. This trend will grow in line with marketers’ adoption of people-based data technology. 

For more on programmatic in 2015, see other blog posts and research by Chris O'Hara.

Ben Davis

Published 7 December, 2015 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is Deputy Editor at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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